• A golden thread? The relationship between supervision, practice, and family engagement in child and family social work

      Wilkins, David; Lynch, Amy; Antonopoulou, Vivi; University of Bedfordshire (John Wiley & Sons Ltd., 2018-03-25)
      Within the social work profession, supervision is highly valued. Yet it is not clear how supervision supports good practice or how supervision makes a difference for children and families. In this study, using paired observations of group supervision and family meetings alongside interviews with parents, we explored the link between supervision, practice, and engagement. Considering each data set separately, we found a range of skill levels within the supervision discussions and in the meetings with families. Parents reported generally high levels of satisfaction with the service and in relation to their individual worker. But more importantly, we found a “golden thread” between certain elements of supervision, more skilful practice, and improved parental engagement. We discuss these key elements in detail and consider what these findings tell us about good supervision and what difference it can make for families and children.
    • Havering: Face to Face Pathways: final evaluation report

      Bostock, Lisa; Khan, Munira; Munro, Emily; Lynch, Amy; Baker, Claire; Newlands, Fiona; Antonopoulou, Vivi; Tilda Goldberg Centre for Social Work and Social Care, University of Bedfordshire (Department for Education, 2020-07-31)
      F2FP was an ambitious programme of change designed to embed systemic practice across the care pathway for young people on the edge of care, in care and leaving care. The project started in October 2017 and ended in October 2019. Key elements included: • targeted, intensive work through the Families Together team (FTT) with young people on the edge of care and their families to prevent entry to care where appropriate • adapting in-care provision to support 8 systemically trained and intensively supported foster carers (‘pathways carers’) to stabilise placements for children with complex needs and avoid the need to move children to residential care • extending leaving care services to young people aged 14 through to 25 and introducing ‘pathway co-ordinators’ to support access to multi-agency services • ensuring co-production is fully embedded and improving business intelligence to aid analysis, monitoring of progress and ability to better target resources
    • How not to observe social workers in practice

      Wilkins, David; Antonopoulou, Vivi; University of Bedfordshire (Routledge, 2017-06-19)
      The home visit is central to the practice of contemporary child and family social work, yet we know comparatively little about what social workers use them for and how. Descriptions of practice and policies and procedures that overlook the emotional, physical and relational complexity of the home visit will inevitably miss something important about the social work role. More and more researchers are using observational methods to produce descriptions of home visit practices, while the Department for Education has been trialing observations as part of a national accreditation programme in England. Local authorities for many years have been engaged in observations of students and newly-qualified workers. However, none of these developments mean that observing social workers in practice and on a wider scale is straight-forward. This paper describes an attempt to introduce regular observations of social work practice in three inner London local authorities—and discusses how and why this attempt failed. By so doing, we hope to provide helpful lessons for others who may be thinking of using observations of practice more widely within their own authorities or as part of a research project.
    • Levels of stress and anxiety in child and family social work: workers' perceptions of organizational structure, professional support and workplace opportunities in Children's Services in the UK

      Antonopoulou, Vivi; Killian, Mike; Forrester, Donald; University of Bedfordshire; University of Texas at Arlington; University of Cardiff (Elsevier, 2017-02-24)
      Child and family social workers are consistently found to have high levels of stress, and this has often been linked to burnout and retention problems in the profession. Local authorities in the UK have recently been under pressure to reform services, and one focus has been exploring how different organizational structures might reduce stress and increase well-being of workers. This paper presents data on 193 social workers from five local authorities in England. We examine the effects of different ways of organizing Children's Services on workers' wellbeing, with particular focus on the underlying relationship between organizational elements, workplace opportunities,and practitioners' work satisfaction. The primary outcome measure is the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12, Goldberg, 1978), a widely validated measure of stress. This data is presented alongside information exploring aspects of organizational structure and functioning. Results indicated significantly different levels of reported stress and general well-being in practitioners working in different local authorities. Implications for how local authorities might support staff to work productively in the stressful and challenging environment of child and family social work are discussed.
    • Ofsted and children’s services: what performance indicators and other factors are associated with better inspection results?

      Wilkins, David; Antonopoulou, Vivi; University of Bedfordshire; Cardiff University (Oxford University Press, 2018-11-26)
      ‘Failing’ an Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) inspection has severe consequences for a local authority. Senior managers may lose their jobs and the workforce as a whole can be destabilised. In extreme cases, central government can decide the authority is no longer capable of running children’s services. On the other hand, receiving positive Ofsted judgements often brings with it a national reputation for excellence. This study reports the findings of an analysis of key performance indicators, expenditure and deprivation in relation to Ofsted inspections for eighty-seven local authorities in England undertaken between 2014 and 2016. Our aim was to examine the association between these factors and Ofsted judgements. Our findings suggest that, for most of the factors we considered, there is no clear pattern of better or worse performance between local authorities with different Ofsted ratings. However, ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ authorities tend to outperform other authorities in relation to some procedural variables. By itself, the level of local-authority deprivation was most clearly associated with the Ofsted rating and expenditure was associated with the authority’s deprivation level, but not their Ofsted judgement. Comparisons are made with the Department of Education’s concept of ‘value-added’ education in relation to schools.
    • A randomized controlled trial of training in Motivational Interviewing for child protection.

      Forrester, Donald; Westlake, David; Killian, Mike; Antonopoulou, Vivi; McCann, Michelle; Thomas, Roma; Waits, Charlotte; Whittaker, Charlotte E.; Hutchison, Dougal; Thurnham, Angela; et al. (Elsevier, 2018-02-12)
      There has been interest in developing more evidence-based approaches to child and family social work in the UK in recent years. This study examines the impact of a skills development package of training and supervision in Motivational Interviewing (MI) on the skills of social workers and the engagement of parents through a randomized controlled trial. All workers in one local authority were randomly assigned to receive the package (n = 28) or control (n = 33). Families were then randomized to trained (n = 67) or untrained (n = 98) workers. Family meetings with the worker shortly after allocation were evaluated for MI skill. Research interviews gathered data including the WAI. Follow-up interviews 20 weeks later repeated the WAI, and other outcome measures including Goal Attainment Scaling (GAS) and rating of family life. Between group analysis found statistically significant difference in MI skills, though these were not substantial (2.49 in control, 2.91 MI trained, p = .049). There was no statistically significant difference between groups in any other outcome measures. The package of training and supervision did not create sufficient increase in MI skills to influence engagement or outcomes. Implications for understanding the relationship between skills, engagement and organizational change are discussed.
    • Scaling and deepening Reclaiming Social Work model

      Bostock, Lisa; Forrester, Donald; Patrizo, Louis; Godfrey, Tessa; Zonouzi, Maryam; Bird, Hayden; Antonopoulou, Vivi; Tinarwo, Moreblessing; University of Bedfordshire; University of Cardiff (Department for Education, 2017-07-06)
      This report evaluates the Scaling and Deepening the Reclaiming Social Work Model which aimed to embed ‘Reclaiming Social Work’ in 5 very different local authorities (Buckinghamshire, Derbyshire, Harrow, Hull and Southwark). Reclaiming Social Work (RSW) is a whole-system reform that aims to deliver systemic practice in children’s services. Key elements include in-depth training, small units with shared cases and group systemic case discussions, clinician support, reduced bureaucracy, devolved decision-making and enhanced administrative support. The overall aims include improving risk assessment and decision-making, providing more effective help and risk management for children and families. Keeping families together, where appropriate, is a fundamental aim of RSW. 
    • Validity of the Working Alliance Inventory within child protection services

      Killian, Mike; Forrester, Donald; Westlake, David; Antonopoulou, Vivi (SAGE, 2015-07-27)
      The Working Alliance Inventory remains a widely studied measure of quality of therapeutic relationships between the practitioner and client. No prior study has examined the psychometrics and validity of the Working Alliance Inventory–Short (WAI-S) in a sample of families, social workers, and trained observers within child protection services. Surveys were completed by 130 families, social workers concerning 274 cases, and observers following 165 home visits during the first wave of data collected from a randomized controlled trial of child protection services. Confirmatory factor analyses were conducted on three versions of the WAI-S and demonstrated moderate to good model fit. Convergent construct validity was found with other standardized measures. Results support the use of the WAI-S during in child protection services practice and research. Future research into family engagement in child protection social work services should focus on the working relationship.
    • What does supervision help with? a survey of 315 social workers in the UK

      Wilkins, David; Antonopoulou, Vivi (Taylor & Francis (Routledge): STM, Behavioural Science and Public Health Titles, 2018-03-01)
      What does social work supervision help with? There are many different models of supervision and an increasing amount of research. Much of this is concerned with the content of supervision and how supervisors (and supervisees) should behave — and these are important concerns. But even more important is the question of who or what supervision helps with. Supervision is widely considered to have many different functions but in the context of UK local authority social work, must ultimately prove itself as a method for helping people who use services. This article reports on a survey of 315 social workers from UK local authorities. Most reported that supervision helps primarily with management oversight and accountability. However, the small number of practitioners who received regular group supervision and those who received supervision more frequently said it helped with a much broader range of things.
    • What is the relationship between worker skills and outcomes for families in child and family social work?

      Forrester, Donald; Westlake, David; Killian, Mike; Antonopoulou, Vivi; McCann, Michelle; Thurnham, Angela; Thomas, Roma; Waits, Charlotte; Whittaker, Charlotte E.; Hutchison, Douglas (Oxford University Press (OUP), 2019-01-28)
      Communication skills are fundamental to social work, yet few studies have directly evaluated their impact. In this study, we explore the relationship between skills and outcomes in 127 families. An observation of practice was undertaken on the second or third meeting with a family. Practice quality was evaluated in relation to seven skills, which were grouped into three dimensions: relationship building, good authority and evocation of intrinsic motivation. Outcomes at approximately six months were parent-reported engagement (Working Alliance Inventory), Goal Attainment Scaling (GAS), an eleven-point family life satisfaction rating, the Family Environment Scale and General Health Questionnaire and service outcomes from agency records including children entering care. Relationship-building skills predicted parent-reported engagement, although good authority and evocation had stronger relationships with outcome measures. Where workers visited families more often, relationships between skills and outcomes were stronger, in part because workers had more involvement and in part because these families were more likely to have significant problems. The relationship between skills and outcomes was complicated, although the findings provide encouraging evidence that key social work skills have an influence on outcomes for families.